Obituary: Brian Clough

A mercurial master among football managers, he transformed the fortunes of two rival clubs

A prolific but unlucky centre-forward, who became a triumphant but star-crossed manager, Brian Clough, who has died of stomach cancer aged 69, was, in some sense, the victim of his own public image. He was a mixture of arrogance and initiative, bombast and generosity, intransigence and self-doubt.

He scored 204 second division goals in 222 games for Middlesbrough, yet won only a couple of England caps, against Wales and Sweden in 1959. As a manager, he transformed Derby County into a championship-winning team, won the European Cup twice with Nottingham Forest, yet failed both at Brighton and Leeds, and never achieved the managership of England he so coveted.

Through almost the whole of Clough's career runs the theme of his collaboration with Peter Taylor. When Clough went back to his local club, Middlesbrough, after RAF service, he was scarcely a third choice centre-forward. It was Taylor, a reserve goalkeeper, who saw his potential, trumpeted his virtues, and promoted his career, with Clough's league debut coming against Barnsley in 1955.

When that career came to a bitter end on Boxing Day 1962, playing for Sunderland, for whom he had signed in 1961, it was with Taylor that Clough begin his remarkable career in management. He was only 27 when a collision with Bury's goalkeeper tore a cruciate ligament beyond repair.

When George Hardwick, another ex-Middlesbrough player and an ex-England captain, made him youth coach, Clough's misery was partly assuaged. But the directors would not have him. He was dismissed, drank heavily, despaired - only to find himself, in 1965, manager of nearby Hartlepool. Taylor agreed to leave his job as Burton Albion manager to assist him.

Between them, the two men breathed life into a club forever on the verge of extinction, and, in 1967, were appointed to run Derby County, then in the Second Division. Showing enormous flair in the transfer market - acquiring for small fees such future stars as Roy McFarland and Archie Gemmill - the two transformed Derby as well. In 1972, they won the championship. But the relationship steadily deteriorated across the years until, like some impossible marriage, it degenerated into implacable hostility, still unresolved at the time of Taylor's death in 1990.

Taylor was enraged when he found Clough had been given a £5,000 salary increase without telling him; and things would never be the same. In October 1973, after Clough had taken Derby to the semi-finals of the European Cup, he and a competitive chairman, Sam Longson, fell out irreparably, Clough and Taylor resigned, and, despite impassioned protest meetings in the town, would not find a way back. Taylor alone returned to the Baseball Ground in 1984 as manager, and clashed violently with Clough again when he signed Nottingham Forest's outside-left, John Robertson, without telling him.

The two of them revolutionised Forest as they had Derby. But not before they had utterly failed, from November 1973, to do the same for the Third Division club Brighton and Hove Albion, where Clough's attempt to bully limited players to perform like stars brought disastrous results. Surprisingly, in July 1974 he was engaged to manage Leeds United, whose players he had publicly condemned as cheats in the past, and who fully reciprocated his antagonism. Clough lasted only 44 days, and emerged from the ordeal a demoralised man.

However, in January 1975 he became manager of Derby's eternal rivals, Nottingham Forest, and in the summer of 1976, when Taylor resigned as mana- ger of Brighton, he joined Clough. Only then did things begin to move. Showing their old flair for signing players, they took Forest out of the Second Division in 1977, won the championship in 1978, and the European Cup in 1979 and 1980.

This was an astonishing achievement with a club that had won nothing of consequence since the FA Cup in 1959. That particular domestic trophy eluded Clough - Tottenham beat Forest in the 1991 final - but league cup victories came in 1978, 1979, 1989 and 1990.

Clough's methods were unique. He was essentially a dictator, and not always a benevolent one. "Have you ever been punched in the stomach, young man?" he once asked a centre-forward, Nigel Jenson, in the dressing room. When the answer was no, Clough suited the action to the word, remarking, "Well, now you have."

After Forest supporters invaded the pitch at the end of a tumultous league cup quarter-final victory over Queen's Park Rangers in February 1989, Clough took the field himself and struck several fans; he was fined £5,000 for bringing the game into disrepute, and banned from the touchline of all football league grounds for the rest of the season.

When Everton's players, disappointed by losing a league cup match to a very controversial goal, despoiled their dressing room, Clough, knowing they were due back in three days for a league match, told the cleaners to leave it as it was. Which was how Everton found it on the following Saturday.

After Derby had lost a European Cup semi-final game against Juventus in Turin in April 1973, Clough emerged from the dressing room and told the expectant Italian reporters, "No cheating bastards do I talk to. I will not talk to any cheating bastards." He shut the dressing-room door, re-emerged and instructed me to "Tell them what I said, Brian!"

Clough was born in Middlesbrough, the sixth of nine children, of whom the first, a girl, had died at the age of four. His father, Joe, wounded in the first world war, worked at various times for nearby ICI and in a sweet factory. His resilient mother, Sally, was extremely close to him, and was reportedly "fanatical" about football.

In later years, Clough would always be a professed socialist, once parking his Mercedes outside a church hall in Nottingham before giving an emotional speech supporting the Labour candidate in the 1979 election, Phillip Whitehead.

Clough married his wife, Barbara Glasgow, a close neighbour, while still playing for Middlesbrough. Of their three children, Simon, Nigel and Libby, it was Nigel who followed Brian into football. A boisterous child who developed into a quiet, calm young man, a gifted centre-forward in a far less robust, more inventive, style than his father's, long the fulcrum of the Forest attack, he later played with Liverpool and Manchester City.

Brian, not often to be found at the training pitch - but always influential when he was there - was given to late, inspirational appearances in pre-match dressing-rooms. On April 26 1993, 58 years old, in charge of Forest for the past 18 years, he finally retired. The team faced relegation, and he himself no longer had the same resilient hubris. But he had worked wonders at the City Ground.

In January 2003, his years of heavy drinking caught up with him and he was obliged to undergo a liver trans- plant in a 10-hour operation carried out in Newcastle. Doctors had told him that without it he had only a few months to live. Clough said he was persuaded to have the operation when his grandson Stephen begged him to stop drinking. "Drink," Clough admitted, "became more important to me than the anguish I was creating for those I loved most."

His wife and children survive him.

· Brian Clough, footballer and football manager, born March 21 1935; died September 20 2004


Brian Glanville

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Brian Clough RIP

In sport, phrases such as 'larger than life' or 'one-off character' tend to be overused. In the case of the late Brian Clough, however, they were pretty much spot on

Chris Borg

20, Sep, 2004 @3:42 PM

Letters: the late Brian Clough
Martin Gallagher writes: As an active football supporter for nearly 45 years, I have little difficulty in supporting the unanimous view that Brian Clough (obituary, September 21) was one of the great British managers, perhaps the best.

25, Sep, 2004 @10:59 PM

Brian Clough factfile

1935: Born March 21 in Middlesbrough

20, Sep, 2004 @2:02 PM

Article image
Brian Clough loses battle with cancer

Brian Clough, one of English football's greatest and most charismatic managers, has died from stomach cancer.

Mike Adamson

20, Sep, 2004 @3:18 PM

Brian Clough - frightening, kind and eccentric

Trevor Francis recalls playing for the man who inspired and terrified in equal measure.

Trevor Francis

21, Sep, 2004 @9:42 PM

Article image
Quiz: who was Brian Clough talking about?

Brian Clough was never short of a quote or three, but just how well do you recall them? Which 10 people is he talking about in the quotes?

19, Sep, 2014 @8:48 AM

Brian Clough will make a great movie monster

A film version of The Damned Utd from the writer of The Queen and The Last King of Scotland? Back of the net!

Peter Bradshaw

08, Aug, 2007 @3:14 PM

Article image
David Lacey on one of Britain's greatest football managers

David Lacey: The outspoken manager's legendary career was dogged by one acrimonious spell at Leeds United, now the subject of a controversial new film

David Lacey

11, Mar, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
The Damned United review – Brian Clough as puritan avenger
An adaptation of David Peace’s novel that is a remarkable re-enactment of Clough’s tempestuous six weeks in charge of Leeds United

Peter Bradshaw

27, Mar, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
New Brian Clough film might interest Manchester United | Richard Williams
For Clough, football was about identifying talent and trusting it, filling its owner with confidence in the spontaneous expressions of his gifts

Richard Williams

11, Sep, 2015 @3:15 PM